Rogue-likes are hardly uncommon nowadays. If a game is not about zombies, punching trees or a combination of the two, you can bet a game has a “fresh new take on the Rogue formula”. Like rotting corpses and foliage based pugilism, we just can’t enough of the damn things. But why?
5) Quick, drop in, drop out game play
When a game is built around you dying repeatedly, often in gruesome and swift manner, you can use the feature as a way of having quick play sessions. On your lunch break? You could probably whip out a couple games of Spelunky, learn a bunch of new ways to not die, improve your play and leave feeling like you have achieved something in a very short space of time. This doesn’t mean you can’t play these games for hours on end, I have spent several days of my life descending into Dredmor…I will conquer that place one day…
4) Procedurally generated universes
Games that relish in your demise need something to keep you entertained, something that makes every delve feel fresh. Procedurally generated levels are the natural solution to this problem, and what’s more, they hit two birds with one somewhat oversized stone. On the one hand, you have infinite replayability, endless exploration, countless hours of fun. On the other, no matter how much you play the game, you will never truly master your surroundings, you can never feel completely safe in a world that is constantly shifting its walls in an attempt to disorientate you. In other words: The game stays hard.
3) Learning is fun
As much as most of us hate to admit it, learning is awesome. Learning a rogue-like is something that should, in my opinion, be on a resume. Learning what will kill you, how it will kill you, how it moves, how that move will inevitably kill you, and how to kill it in such a way that his 100+ friends don’t kill you is an art in and of itself. Learning how to maximise your chances of success in a world painstakingly designed to be the antithesis of life is fun…if you are a glutton for punishment…and you are.
2) Perma-death is relatable
Not all rogue-likes have a story, or even a shred of personality. I mean back-in-the-day “@” was our protagonist…not exactly something we can have an overwhelming emotional connection too. But strangely enough, you do have a connection. Every character you play as is a chance for you to actually win the game, and every character who dies, is actually dead for all eternity. In Rogue Legacy you might have a paranoid, schizophrenic, dwarf with brittle bones, but damn it, he is YOUR paranoid, schizophrenic, dwarf with brittle bones, and you are going to get him through that dungeon despite overwhelming odds. Chris Redfield might have a dozen games under his melon stashing biceps, but he is blessed with the luxury of immortality. There is only so much you can relate with when a character cannot truly die thanks to his impenetrable plot armour.
1) The Challenge
Rogue-likes are the ultimate challenge in gaming. A single play through can last tens of hours, hundreds even, and the fact you made it through without making a single mistake (as most mistakes are inevitably fatal) is something to be proud of. You, the greatest gamer to have ever lived, has just proven to the world, that you are in fact the greatest gamer to have ever lived. Even if the game doesn’t support achievements, we all know you have a T-shirt/tattoo combo celebrating your grandiose display of magnificence.